« Data democracy | Main | Playthings in an unreal world »



Nice to see how Sullivan is so selective in his picking of "outliers". He always mentions Rasmussen, yet he never seems to mention polls that are obvious outliers when they benefit Obama. The AP poll of a week and a half ago is a perfect example. It shows Obama with a 56% approval rating during a time period when every other poll had him in the upper 40s. This president hasn't had 56% approval in months and months.

Alan Abramowitz

You're missing the point, Bob. Rasmussen is not only consistently an outlier but it has a very disproportionate influence on the overall averages because of it is releasing new results all the time. Rasmussen is in fact the only poll that has such an impact due to the combination of its status as an outlier and its frequency.


As a lapsed psephologist I write from the heart when saying that polls are at risk of being spun in many different ways, and fear that the comments section on this post may reflect it! However, Alan's right: we need to distinguish between an outlier and a trend. AP may be an outlier, but Rasmussen is a trend.

Without looking at the comparative question wording, if I were with Rasmussen I'd be rather worried.

Tom Brady


What you don't say, however, is that Gallup plays a similar role, but in the opposite direction, since it consistently has higher approval ratings for Obama - their latest has his approval/disapproval at 49.6-43.4. Drop Gallup and the composite poll suddenly reads 50.9 DISapproval versus 46.2 approval. Not quite the impact of Rassmussen, but significant nonetheless.

In any event, I think Bob is right: Sullivan is being slightly disingenuous here.

Aside: By truncating the left hand y-axis, Sullivan also creates a visual perception suggesting a bigger difference between Rasmussen and the composite poll. It's defensible I guess, but....

A Professor

Dear Mr JunkCharts,

As a longtime regular, who recommends this blog to his statistics students, how could you miss the fact that Sullivan clearly cherry-picked his polls?

You lose credibility!

A Professor


All: thanks for the thoughtful comments. I did some more research and augmented the original post.

A Professor

Thanks so much for addressing the cherry picking issue. My mind is at ease!

A Professor


Note that the Rasmussen only shows automated polls. People tend to be more honest if they are afraid of saying something that could be construed as embarrassing or, heaven forbid, racist.

web developer

I think that Rasmussen is the only poll that has an impact when it comes to the combination of its status as an outlier and its frequency.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
Visit my website. Follow my Twitter. See my articles at Daily Beast, 538, HBR.

See my Youtube and Flickr.

Book Blog

Link to junkcharts

Graphics design by Amanda Lee

The Read

Keep in Touch

follow me on Twitter